HC Deb 29 July 1857 vol 147 cc641-5

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


opposed the clause. The Bill was founded on the metropolitan Act, and was practically extended in its operation to the whole of Scotland. He admitted the benefits which had been derived from the operation of the Act in London; but there were certain manufactures in the process of which it was impossible to prevent the escape of smoke, and he thought that the House should not hastily legislate on this matter by a Bill interfering with all parts of Scotland. Those who carried on the manufacture of iron maintained that in the process of manufacture the smoke could not be consumed, and a part of Scotland was a large iron-producing district. He admitted the great advantage which had been produced by the prevention of smoke in the metropolis, but none of those peculiar manufactures to which he had referred were to be found in London. He thought it was not advisable that they should pass the clause without careful inquiry into its probable effects, and he should therefore move its omission from the Bill.


was of opinion that the subject ought to undergo some inquiry before a Select Committee, and the practicability of putting in force the stringent provisions of the Bill should be investigated before this clause was adopted.


who had charge of the Bill, said that the rejection of the present clause would be tantamount to the defeat of the Bill. He admitted that the measure as drawn would be too extensive in operation, and he had therefore given notice of Amendments for striking out some of the provisions, and for confining the operation of the measure to towns and populous places. He also thought it reasonable that the Bill should only apply to those cases with respect to which there had been experience on the subject in England.


expressed his belief that in the county which he represented (Ayrshire) the Bill was generally approved.


said, the measure, which had come down from the other House, had been three months before the country, and it was approved by many of the Scotch Members. The Smoke Prevention Act which applied to London had, he was assured, worked most satisfactorily, and many persons who had been strong opponents of the measure were now satisfied of its advantages. He thought the objections which were now raised to the clause would have been more properly urged against the Bill on its second reading. If this clause were rejected it would be equivalent to throwing over the Bill to next Session, and with the enormous amount of work now accumulating, that would be the same thing as postponing it sine die. He was quite ready to adopt any reasonable Amendments that might be suggested, and he hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock would not persist in his opposition to the clause.


observed that their experience as to the operation of a measure of this nature in England was limited to the metropolis, where particular branches of manufacture only were interfered with; but it must be remembered that in Scotland an enormous capital was invested in the iron trade, and it was impossible to carry on that manufacture without producing a great deal of smoke. This Bill would interfere materially with the iron manufacture, and he hoped the House, before giving it their sanction, would consider the magnitude and importance of the interests involved. He thought public attention had not been sufficiently drawn to the sweeping nature of the measure; for if it had been proposed to apply such a Bill to the whole of England the table of the House of Commons would have been covered with petitions against it, and London would have been crowded with manufacturers who had come up to defend their rights against legislative interference.


expressed a general disapproval of the Bill. If it were a good measure he did not see why its operation should be confined to Scotland. It would be manifestly unfair to subject the manufacturers of one portion of the United Kingdom to restrictions from which the manufacturers of other portions were exempted. He had further to observe that the coal used in Scotland produced in general much more smoke in the course of ignition than the coal used in England; and such a Bill as the one before the House would therefore operate with peculiar severity in that country. It was not fair to pass the Bill without due notice to all parties, and without their being heard as to how their interests would be affected. He hoped the House would throw out the measure altogether.


said, he quite differed from his hon. Friend and believed the Bill was one which was much desired by the people of Scotland, and which was likely to be attended with very great advantages. The extension of the use of steam-engines, and the consequent increase of smoke, had of late years rendered some of the most important towns in Scotland almost uninhabitable. The inhabitants had borne the evil as long as it was supposed there was no remedy, but now that it was known by the experience of London that the evil could be got rid of, or very greatly mitigated, a feeling of discontent had arisen, of which he was surprised hon. Gentlemen on the other side were not aware. Many of the manufacturers were in its favour and desired to see the provisions of the Smoke Act applied to Scotland.


regarded the object of the measure as one of great importance. The main questions involved in the Bill were, whether it was possible to consume smoke, and, if so, at what expense that object could be effected. If the Bill had been introduced at an earlier period of the Session, it would, perhaps, have been desirable to refer it to a Select Committee; but it had been under the consideration of the other House for a considerable time, and very few representations had been received from Scotland in opposition to its principle. He was persuaded the Bill was practicable; and he would suggest that it should be allowed to go through Committee for the introduction of Amendments, and that due time should be afforded for its consideration before the Report was brought up. He might observe that he thought the assent of the Lord Advocate should be required to prosecutions instituted under the Bill, and that its application should be limited to places containing not less than 5,000 inhabitants.


said, he was prepared to adopt that suggestion. He had no desire unfairly to press the progress of the measure.


said, that smoke certainly operated in some cases very injuriously; but he felt at the same time that measures for the suppression of the nuisance should be adopted carefully and cautiously, so that the feelings of the manufacturers themselves might be enlisted in favour of their success. With proper care and management the difficulties of complying with the Act would be easily got over.


said, he hoped Scotland would not be made an exception to the rest of the United Kingdom. He thought Scotch smoke was very like English smoke, and would remind the House of the observation of the noble Lord at the head of the Government when he introduced the measure for London, that when the Act passed the manufacturers would soon find out the means of consuming their smoke.


did not think the provisions of this Bill had been sufficiently considered by the people of Scotland. He would ask why such a measure should be limited to Scotland, when it must be admitted that the smoke nuisance prevailed to an equal extent in Lancashire and South Wales. This was the first Bill of the kind which applied to country districts—for the previous Bills had applied to towns only—and he would propose that the Bill should apply to Great Britain and Ireland; for he thought the manufacturers of iron and soap in Scotland might justly complain that this measure would place them at a considerable disadvantage as compared with the iron manufacturers in Staffordshire and South Wales, and the soap manufacturers in Leeds and Belfast.


contended that the means of compliance with the Bill were easy, and that many a simple labourer had devised means of doing so under special circumstances.

Clause agreed to; as was also Clause 2.

Clause 3.


objected to give power to the magistrates to enter premises with the police to see that proper means had not been taken. Now, if the smoke was consumed, it did not matter what was the means adopted. Such a power would be regarded with great jealousy. Manufacturers objected strongly to any one entering their premises. It would be thought that if a magistrate wanted to make himself acquainted with some process carried on at his neighbour's works, he would go in with the police, on pretext of seeing what apparatus was used to consume the smoke.

Clause withdrawn.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6.


objected to the clause which prohibited the working of furnaces till the apparatus had been appended. He thought it was quite sufficient that smoke should not be allowed to issue from the top of the chimney, without meddling with the furnace.

Clause struck out.

Clauses 7 to 13 agreed to. Clause 14 struck out.

Clauses 15, 16, and 17 agreed to. Clauses 18 and 19 struck out.

Clause 20 (Bill to apply to Towns of a population of 5,000).

LORD LOVAINE moved that it should apply to towns containing 2,000 inhabitants, which was agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

MR. BLACK moved to insert a clause providing that brewers should not be liable to the penalties of the Act, if they did all in their power to comply with its provisions by employing proper firemen.


opposed the clause. Brewers in London, who were the largest in the world, were not exempted from the metropolitan Smoke Prevention Act, and affected large savings by complying with the Act.


said, that the London brewers did not brew Edinburgh ale.

Clause withdrawn.

MR. BUCHANAN moved a clause exempting steamboats in rivers and harbours from the operation of the Act.


explained that the Act had only application to steamers above bridge, and had no reference to steamboats at sea.


said, that the mode by which steamers consumed their own smoke was of very easy application. He could not accept the exemption in respect of steamboats on rivers, but was willing to accede to the proposition as far as regarded steamboats in harbours.


said, he must refuse the compromise, for the provision would interfere greatly with the river navigation of Scotland, and he should take the sense of the Committee upon it. The navigation of the Clyde was very different from that of the Thames, and the principle which did very well for the one was not applicable to the other.

Clause withdrawn.

House resumed; Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended to be considered on Wednesday, 12th August.